Faculty members at Harker’s lower school can’t speak highly enough of Helping Hands, a BEST (Bucknall Enrichment and Supervision Team) program created to provide K-5 teachers with an extra pair of hands while working on a special or labor-intensive project.
Helping Hands began in the 2010-11 school year as an attempt to bridge academics with BEST, explained Kim Cali, director of the program. “We all had the common goal of providing the best experience for the children; however, teachers and BEST staff didn’t know much about each other,” she recalled.
Cali said another driving force behind the Helping Hands program was that many BEST staffers are young adults who want to forge careers in education. “What better way to get some hands-on experience than to learn and work with the best (teachers, that is)?” she added, noting that she also viewed the program as a way for students to see teachers and BEST staff working together toward a common goal.
Lower school teachers, however, credit Helping Hands with being a lifesaver at times. For example, grade 3 teacher Elise Robichaud reported that Helping Hands staff jumped right in to help her homeroom accomplish an extraordinary amount of holiday crafting in just two short periods. “I would not have been able to do any of it without their help. I truly appreciate their amazing efforts!” said Robichaud.
Another teacher, Eileen Schick, said that without assistance from Helping Hands her kindergarten polyhedron ornament project would not have been possible. “Many hands were required to help the students cut, fold, tape and decorate their ornaments. The patience, guidance and encouraging words from the BEST staff made this project successful and a special memory for our kindergarteners!” she said.
This year the BEST staff has put at least 50 hours into the Helping Hands program, according to Cali, “and they are always eager to do more!”
BEST staff member Ali Bo said, “It’s awesome being able to work hands on with the children in a classroom setting, as well as getting to know the teachers across different grade levels. The best part about Helping Hands, from my perspective, is that everyone involved benefits. Not only are the teachers able to accomplish more, but while working in the classrooms, I’m also able to learn from the teachers how to better manage and direct students. It’s a nice treat to the BEST staff when a teacher does need help, because it’s something new and different and opens our eyes to a variety of ways to be involved at Harker!”
“It’s incredible what time in a classroom can teach you about a kid you’ve known for five years. I can’t overstate the significance of getting to know our children as students,” added fellow BEST staffer Troy Townzen ’08.
The Helping Hands program operates quietly and without fanfare, leading many lower school teachers to speculate that it may, indeed, be one of Harker’s BEST kept secrets.
“We are here and ready to help!” said Cali.